Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Crafty Christmas Tree Challenge

Once upon a time on a journey through blog land, us gals came across a magnificent challenge--and we never pass up a good friendly competition!  Meg over at Mega-Crafty has crafted up the thrifty & seasonal task of decorating a Christmas tree for under $20! Appropriately dubbed:

The Crafty Christmas Tree Challenge!


^For dramatic effect of course, because our trees are going to be epic! Keep checking in for posts on the different ornaments we whip up from cheap junk thrifty treasures!

Here are the rules as posted by Mega-Crafty:
  • $20 dollar budget
  • The tree needs to be at least 4 ft tall
  • If you have to buy a tree the cost of the tree and the lights don't count as part of the $20 budget
  • Adhesives (tape, glue, etc) are the only stash item(s) you can use that won't count against the $20 budget). But adhesives must be used to stick other materials together. If adhesives are used in any other way (i.e duct tape ornaments) the cost of the adhesive will count against the budget.
  • Fraction-ing the cost of materials is NOT allowed. (i.e. a pack of paper with 10 sheets costs $1 dollar, but only one sheet is used. $1 dollar should still be subtracted from the budget, rather than .10 cents).
  • Coupons CAN be used to help the budget stretch farther
  • Upcycling and Recycling are allowed
  • Each ornament doesn't have to be different, you can make as many of one type as you want.
  • Update- Just to clarify, any tools you have (i.e. knitting needles, craft knife, scissors) can be used and don't count against the budget. Only materials count.
  • Update 2- Some people have asked about stash items and scraps. If you are going to use stash items just subtract the cost from a virtual $20 budget. Also scraps count as upcycling/recycling so scraps are perfectly acceptable per the rules!
If you want to participate too stop by Mega-Crafty and leave her a comment letting her know you want in!

    Wednesday, November 23, 2011

    Sara: 3 Things I'm Thankful For

    1. His name is Andrew. My sister's first kid. I am thankful that he introduced my female family to the joys of raising a little boy. I am thankful that he has more sarcasm and wit than most adults I know; that he knows more about football and sports at the age of 7 than I ever will in my entire life; that he monkey jumps into my arms when I ask for a hug--and then giggles and squirms when I tickle him but knows he can't let go or he'll fall. That he says things like "Off to another boring day of work"--as I leave in the mornings, or "I love you until forever"--when I tuck him in. That he let me talk him into being an old man for halloween last year,

    and played the part perfectly (even down to the voice and limping walk). That he asks tough questions and soaks up the answer like a sponge. That he dances like noones watching and thinks he has moves that are out of this world. That he calls me to come tuck him in at night, to play monopoly, or to invite me over for movie night. That he is such a caring big brother who is always looking out for keeping his sisters safe, and helping them learn and grow. That he ruins every picture by over smiling, sticking out his tongue, or makes random gang signs with his hands. The light in his eyes and the kindness is his heart. That he lets me kiss and hug him in front of his friends, even though he's getting older now and that is so uncool. I am thankful that he tells me I am a great aunty and that he loves me unconditionally.

    2. Her name is Ashley. The middle like her aunty. I am thankful for her beauty; for her quiet contemplative thoughts and observations. That she cries for lost relatives she's never met when looking at their pictures; that floods (The Johnstown Flood) and sickness and voyages (how many lives lost on the Mayflower) and poverty bring out a seriousness and compassion in her that causes her to stop and ask with those big, innocent eyes of hers why such horrible things are allowed to happen. I am thankful that she is wise beyond her years. That she loves to eat; that she can wink with either eye but can't roll her tongue; that she draws pictures of me with random ghosts in the corner; that she puts more thought into an outfit than me most times. For her warm hugs that melt away any worries or sadness of my day.

    I am thankful that she loves to dance and dress-up and have tea parties and craft; that she constantly tries to mother and scold her older brother when she thinks no ones paying attention. That she uses words like "actually", "usually", "especially" and other multi-syllabic words 5 year olds shouldn't be using yet. That she can read at about a third grade level; her smartness; her dittziness; her giggles; her attitude. I am thankful that this beautiful little girl will someday grow into a graceful, strong woman that will make the world a better place to live.
    3. Her name is Amber. The baby. I am thankful for her dimpled smile and crazy hair. I am thankful that she only says things like, "ewwww," or "ouchhh!" or "snack!" or "BEEEBEEE"(which means both blanket and binky). That we can't seem to stop her from climbing on tables or bouncing on furniture; that she has more attitude than a teenager; that she lights up the room with her laughter; that she hates sharing attention with her siblings; that she puts on my heels or sun glasses and walks around like a movie star. I am thankful that she rips out ponytails and bows and hats from her head like they are torture devices. The way she reaches up, opening and closing her fists, begging to be held; the way she gives kisses away freely.
    I am thankful that she is always making faces like this one just before the camera clicks. Her chubby arms and legs. The way she waddles around like she owns the place. That she is always making a mess and always up to something. That she snores when she sleeps and screams about being told no. I am thankful that just when we thought two kiddos were enough, my sister blessed our family with a third we can't imagine ever having lived without.

    Thursday, November 17, 2011

    Sara: Wine and Cheese? Yes Please!

    I love planning things.
    Wine tours for us gals, dinner dates and nights on the town and of course--PARTIES! So when I first saw the idea on Pinterest for a wine and cheese party, my little head and all the thoughts in it could not seem to concentrate on anything else. Ask any of the other gals--I annoyingly party planned out loud to them via emails, phone calls, and get togethers for weeks until the party actually happened last Friday.
    So here I am to share with you the inspiration and details for my Wine and Cheese extravaganza. It all started with this innocent little pin:

    The chalkboard/cork/wine combination was just too classic to mess with. So it was from this pin that my party was born. It started with the invites that I made. I bought an off-white blank card and envelope set, cork scrap-booking paper with an adhesive back, chalk board scrap-booking paper (all from Michael's), and olive and burgundy toned paint swatches that I stealthily stuffed my purse with at Walmart (yes I'm that girl; and the idea is seriously too ingenious to let the embarrassment of potentially being seen stop you!)

    I'll put a better picture on here if I can find
    one, but for now.. that's as good as it gets.
    This is what I came up with:
    The invite asked each guest to RSVP, and as they did I gave each guest a particular wine to bring along with them. Nothing fancy, just the average liquor store or local winery variety, any brand. (I was shooting for the $10-$15 range so that no one would have to break the bank!)

    After the invites I began some party prep. I bought enough wine glasses for each of my guests and painted the tops of their bases with chalkboard paint, so that everyone could claim a glass of their own and mark it with their name or designs. I used Martha Stewart Chalkboard paint in black. First I taped around the stem of each glass to keep the lines crisp. I found four coats of paint gave me the perfect opaque matte finish I was looking for, and voila!

    I made the cute little sign by putting a piece of the chalkboard paper in a cheap antique looking frame, and hanging it on the wall above the wine glasses the night of the party!

    I found an ingenious pairing website, hellovino, that gave me all of the ideas for the food I would make, and the cheeses I would offer for each wine! Here's a portion of my wine list, and the food I decided to serve with each:

    Cabernet Sauvignon- Gouda, Cheddar,  & Camembert Cheeses; and Hershey Kisses

    Chinati-  Fontina & Fresh Mozzerella Cheeses; and Pizza

    Grenache- Cheddar, Gouda, Swiss & Fontina Cheeses; and Herbed Italian Mini Meatballs (great recipe!)

    Syrah- BBQ Pork, Cornbread, Twix candy bars (I didn't make this up! visit hellovino for other strange pairings!)

    Tawny Port- Blue Cheese; and Hershy Kisses & Almonds
    Chardonnay- Brie Cheese; and Cornbread and pumpkin dip (Do yourself a favor and beg Kayla for this easy-peasy recipe!)

    Pinot Grigio- Gouda

    Gewurztraminer- (This wine is one of my most favorites. If you haven't had haven't lived) Swiss & Muenster Cheeses; Mini Quiche Lorraines

    Riesling- BBQ Pork, Caramelized Onion Apple Bites (Strangely savory & delicious) & Gingersnap Cookies

    Sauvignon Blanc- Goat Cheeses; and Spinach dip & Spicy Lemon Garlic Shrimp (Everyone raved about this dish!! Thank you Pioneer woman, you've done it again!)

    Prosecco- Chicken Cordon Bleu (I cheated here... I cut down chicken tenders into bite sized pieces, and halfway through their baking added a slice of ham and swiss cheese!) & Lemon Chiffon Pie (mmmm)

    There was so much food and wine that I couldn't make my display as picture perfect as my inspiration board, but I'll take more food over presentation any day! Here's how the night turned out:

    Note the cute little cheese flags in the photo above? Super easy: cut the flag shapes out of cardstock, poke two tiny holes on the triangle's fat end--one above the other--insert toothpick end in and back out the holes, and write on the type of cheese! 

    For each bottle of wine, I made these cute little tags that the guests could tie on with green rafia as they arrived! Each tag had the wine name, the pronunciation for those not so familiar with wine lingo, and the back listed any cheeses or dishes that were recommended to try with each variety.

    I also gave some door prizes for the guests who could guess the closest number to this trivia question's answer: How many gallons of wine can be produced from an acre of grape vines? The answer: 800! Here are the prizes I gave pictured below; The closest two got these mini grapevine wreaths I made and the next four got these "charming"  grape ornaments/wine bottle charms!

    Happy guests and a table full of food! We are still polishing off the leftovers!

    Me and some of the wine loving gals

    Check out the chica on the left at her blog, Team Studer!

    The collateral damage--altogether, 16 girls finished off 10 bottles of vino, and left 2 half finished! Not bad for a nights work!

    Now, I have the daunting task of emptying the remaining bottles.... poor me, however will I do it? ;)

    Happy Party Planning!

    Monday, November 14, 2011

    Ebates + Online Shopping = a very happy Kayla

    Thanks to getting my BIG FAT CHECK in the mail today, now I'm on an Ebatesmania spree.
    What's that you say? You've never heard of Ebates?
    Well lucky for you (and your online holiday gift shopping) I am here to fluff your wallet!

    Ebates is a wonderful little website that gives you CASH BACK just for stopping at their website before you head on over to your favorite shopping site of choice.

    Let's say you've been scoping out a new pair of flats from Banana Republic...

    So you go straight to, order the shoes and pay $110.00 plus shipping, get your cute flats in the mail, wear them all over town, and feel happy and pretty. 

    But wait!  Now that I planted the seed of Ebates, lets grow this little gem into a sweet money making deal! 
    How about you go to FIRST, find the link for Banana, where you will also discover that you can get 10% cash back, free shipping AND 25% off of your order! Sweet Lemondrops!

    So instead of paying $110.00 plus, you are now getting the SAME pair of adorable flats for $82.50 AAAND you earn $8.25 just by using!!! Now you can prance around in your new flats while you wait for the mailman to deliver your BIG FAT CHECK!

    And he will

    Look how happy my BIG FAT CHECK made me :)
    Yes, this $8.60 is going towards another pair of shoes.  Hooray!

    Happy Holiday Shopping (& saving!)

    Saturday, November 5, 2011

    Sara: Current Beauty Obsessions

    Key word for this post: OBSESSED.
    disclaimer: do not read if the obnoxious use of colored text offends you 

    (1) Sephora Natural Tea Tree Blotting Papers: I recently picked these up, and ever since have been, well... obsessed. I already consider blotting papers a gift from the beauty gods, but throw in the invigorating tea tree scent and it's heaven. Tea tree oil also has some natural healing and restoring properties so I'm hoping to reap some of the long term benefits too (I'll keep you posted). The papers literally suck up all the oil on my face, to freshen up mid-day without leaving behind dry skin or messing with my makeup! Also comes in Lavender and Vitamin C & E varieties. Collateral Damage: $8

    (2) Nano Eyeliners: Another gem from Sephora. I scooped two of these up in Midnight Black (classic) and Khaki Green (beautiful! a very earthy almost brown with slight shimmer). They glide on super smooth stay on all day, and are adorably pocket-sized. Only downside: you need to buy a special mini sharpener too.
    Collateral Damage: $5 each ($3 for sharpener)

    (3) ANEW Clinical Derma-Full 3x, Facial Filling Serum: I don't even think they make this anymore, because I can't find it on the AVON website... bummer. The product lasts a long time because you only need to use very little. I smooth it on before bed and notice a huge difference in the evenness and smoothness in my skin the next day. It's pore minimizing magic makes my face look more awake and fresh in the A.M.
    Collateral Damage: Free gift from when my sister used to sell Avon! but I think as far as Avon goes this line is on the higher end of their pricing

    (4) Johnson's Shea & Cocoa Butter Baby Lotion: I love, love, love babies. But I don't always want to smell like one. Regular baby lotion has been a long time favorite of mine. No other lotion has ever left my skin softer, for a longer period of time, without feeling greasy. Perfumey lotions have always been too much for me, so when I found this baby lotion in such a light, natural scent.... obsessed. Collateral Damage: $3

    (5) SEPHORA by OPI in Spark-tacular: This nail polish is a party in a bottle. It reminds me of party confetti, or birthday sprinkles and it was obsession at first sight. Technically its a Top Coat, because the actual polish is clear with multicolored medium and chunky glitter. I've been seeing tons of pictures on pinterest using chunky glitter like this on nail tips, and fading down into the nail. Tried it on my toes with a slightly metallic fuschia and it looks amazing. Painted my sister's nails a very bright Robin Egg's blue and glittered only one finger on each hand..... even more amazing. (No, ok? I don't have any pictures of that... get off my back)
    Collateral Damage: $9.95 

    (6) One and Only's Argan Oil: This, in my opinion, is one of the best kept secrets in hair care.Which is why I am here to tell you that you NEED to drive to Sally's right now... and buy this product. The oil treatment is derived from Moroccan Argan Trees. My hair tends to get a bit greasy after a full day, and when I use this I notice it a bit more so--but I typically wash my hair every day so that's no biggy. If your looking for obsessively silky, soft hair for a night, with no frizz (!!!) look no further than Argan oil. One tiny drop is all you need, rub it around between your palms and run it through wet or dry hair. I usually wait until my hair is half blown-dry then I apply the oil. Avoid going too heavy on the scalp to avoid greasiness faster, but this will make your hair so soft with brilliant shine and it smells great too. (It makes me feel exotic when I catch whiffs throughout the day :) Don't judge me) Collateral damage: $0.99 (Yes! That's right, not even a dollar for this amazing find!! I got a small sample size about 6 months ago and still have plenty left. They do sell it in larger bottles however!)